The Pineapple, The Sea Captain and How a Legend Began…

Sailors are known for their stories. You’d be hard-pressed to go to any ocean enthusiast’s house and not hear a tale of the extraordinary fish caught, or the summer storm turned sour, or the port city that lured like a siren song.  But did you ever hear the story about the pineapple? The one that tells how it became one of the most iconic symbols in the world? Today in the Vintage Kitchen, we’ve got a legend on the table.

There are a few versions surrounding the pineapple and how it became known as the universal symbol of hospitality. Some stories claim it was a gift of peace offered to foreign explorers by local Caribbean tribes.  Other stories state it was a sought-after souvenir traded around South America until it eventually was welcomed in Europe for experimental gardening. Another explains that it was a status symbol of the very rich and the very royal who used it as a party decoration to signify the extent of their wealth, visually reinforcing the fact that they could indeed offer the best of everything to their guests, no matter what the cost. But our favorite version in the Vintage Kitchen, of how the pineapple came to be a hospitality icon, is the one that dates to the 1700s in the time of the sea captains.

That legend states that merchant trading ships like this…

A Chesapeake Bay style sloop was a common merchant ship traveling between the West Indies and the Eastern Atlantic coast.

carried cargo (mainly sugar, tobacco, rum, and molasses) back from the Caribbean islands to various ports in New England. Included in their bounty was the exotic tropical pineapple, a fruit so unusual in its beauty, so incredible in its sweetness and so valuable in its price, it was treated delicately just like its most precious counterpart, sugar.

When the ship was back in port and safely unpacked, the captain would return home to his New England house with a pineapple in hand.  He would spear this fruit on the front garden gate to signify to friends and neighbors that he had returned from his ocean voyage and was ready to entertain visitors with good stories and good food.

The centuries-old houses of Kennebunkport, Maine where many a sea captain lived.

With just the right amount of whimsy and practicality, it is not hard to see how such a story and such an action could have spread throughout the village, and then the state, and then the coastline, so that within time, hundreds of garden gates across many states were bearing pineapples – a symbol of friendly invitation, warm welcome and kind generosity.

Pineapple gates in Odessa, DE

No one yet has accurately been able to authenticate the first-time connection between pineapples and hospitality, but this sea captain story may help explain why you’ll find pineapples incorporated into outdoor architectural details all over the East Coast from Maine to Florida.

Appearing in gardens both ancient and new…

Permanent pineapples in the garden.

…history tells of America’s long-standing love affair with this hospitable fruit.  You’ll see it on the front doors of old houses like this one…

The historic Hunter House in Newport, Rhode Island built in 1748.
There’s the pineapple above the door, welcoming all who enter.

and this one…

Virginia’s Shirley Plantation, completed in 1738, which boasts a three-foot tall pineapple in the middle of the roofline…

and in the decorative details of brand new, modern days houses…

Pineapple-themed door knockers, welcome signs, doorbells, and house number plaques announce an age-old symbol on brand-new exteriors.

You’ll also find them indoors…

Most often as finials on front entry staircases…

blending classic and traditional elements from past centuries to the present century…

Pineapples in all modern ways useful… ice bucket, lamp, bookends, flower vase.

Last week we added a new vintage pineapple to the shop…

This one was neither a finial nor an exterior facade detail but instead at one point in its life had adorned the top of a fountain.  The fountain wasn’t as big as Charleston’s famous Waterfront Park pineapple…

Waterfront Park, Charleston SC

but she is an ideal size for many design possibilities including lighting, decoration, and display.  And she carries forth the sea captain’s theme of good stories and good food in a most beautiful way.

Even though we might never be able to uncover where and how the pineapple became involved with the convivial idea of good hospitality, we still love the idea of one fruit bringing together three centuries worth of parties and people. Critics would say that the sea captain story is flawed because pineapples were expensive and traders wouldn’t put a small fortune out in plain view for anyone to steal. But hospitality is about extending and offering, not squandering and hiding, so clearly, the argument could go either way.

If you were a sailor in the 1700s, at sea for long stretches of time, with life and death equally close at hand, perhaps you needed a little frivolity upon returning home to family and friends and the pineapple provided just that. A simple yet beautiful billboard. One that symbolized rich with life lived instead of rich with monetary wealth.

Cheers to the legends that stick around and to the fruits that travel through time!

Channel your own inner sea captain and set the stage for your next night of entertainment. Find the vintage fountain topper pineapple piece in the shop here!


Men’s Vintage Sporting Fashions – A Nostalgic Look Back

Ms. Jeannie is perplexed. As of late, there seems to be a lot of hillbilly happening in the contemporary sporting culture. TV is packed with shows about guns, shows about catfish noodling, shows about 800 ways to camouflage your hunt.

Cut-off jean shorts and dirty t-shirts, duck-tapped boots and grungy attitudes are running rampant. All which got Ms. Jeannie wondering…whatever happened to the days of the elegant sportsman?

The Brad Pitt’s In A River Runs Through It

Scene from A River Runs Through It starring Brad Pitt

or the Henry Fonda’s of On Golden Pond?

On Golden Pond – Starring Henry Fonda

Or the Robert Redford’s in Out of Africa?

Out of Africa – Starring Robert Redford

The classic styles, the hats, the wool and the tweed, the velvet and the linen? Has refinement gotten lost somewhere down the long and dusty road of men’s sporting clothes?

Let’s take a peek at some examples…

Ms. Jeannie was reminded about an invitation she received recently to a fox hunt in the Pennsylvania countryside.  Never having been before, she was impressed that everyone participating looked like they had just stepped out of a 19th century painting like this one from Henry Thomas Alken’s…

Fox Hunting by Henry Thomas Alken

Bright red coats, top hats, tan riding britches. Hound dogs underfoot, horses brushed, braided and polished to a shine. Now this was a spectacle of elegance. There was even a ceremonial pre-hunt cocktail served in silver cups… while on horseback, we might add. It was decandant.  It was old-fashioned. It was magical. Grand animals in a grand setting.  Well done fox hunters for keeping the spirit of the sport alive…

Sport their same look with these items, available on Etsy…

60’s Wool Mens Fox Hunting Pants from GreatGuyGifts
Antique Beaver Top Hat from Threadsandpins
Vintage English Riding Jacket from eldonhill

Likewise, the fisherman of yesteryear, seemed to do it right. Wool sweaters, corduroy pants, tweed hats…  check out this 1924 advertisement for fishing tackle. He’s wearing an Oxford style shirt and a belt!

1924 Winchester Fishing Tackle Poster

Get this same look with the following items:

Antique Fly Fishing Creel from Nuvegriz
Khaki Work Shirt from lookinglasshouse
Mens German Made Olive Wool Pants from FireflyVintage

Boating never looked more picturesque than in this 1917 ad of a captain and his dog, proving that boating can still be fun even if you are wearing a bow tie!

1917 National Sportsmans’s Magazine from LastChanceAntiques

Next time you are on the water, trying wearing this…

Greek Fisherman’s Cap from PoisonPuddingFaire
Dark Blue Denimn Bowtie from Bowtie Company
Woolrich Grey Long Sleeved Shirt from CairoVintage
1960s Vintage Mens Sweater Vest from VimVigorVintage

You’ll notice in these examples that all the men pictured are wearing hats. Hats stopped being worn by men around the 1950’s. Some attribute it to JFK and his own vanity.  Apparently he liked his hair and wanted to show it off! Hence no need for a hat. As a trendsetter, others took note and the hat slowly started to fade out of popularity.

This is an interesting article on the history of the fedora…

Ms. Jeannie wants to launch a campaign to help bring the Fedora back!!! How could you resist such handsome ones as these:

Vintage Houndstooth Fedora from Basyaberkman
Men’s Vintage Brown Fedora from tangerinestyle
The Don Draper from ReroManVintage
Green Fedora Hat from kalaidascopes
Vintage Straw Men’s Fedora Hat from Marvita13

Help the cause! If you wear Fedora’s send a picture to Ms. Jeannie and she’ll post it on the blog.